DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beta-fabulous Xander gets kudos for suggesting the title, and for fixing what was busted! This story takes place after Beautiful Things
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Here to Stay
Nigel glanced up across the table, nodding at either Alex or Adam from Saatchi & Saatchi; they were both there that night, and he couldn't remember who was who. James was seated next to him, deep in conversation with Jocelyn. His former co-worker had yet to take off all of her baby weight, and strikingly, she looked a thousand times better. Although she rarely went out much anymore because of the baby, she and her husband had made babysitting arrangements, because when Miranda Priestly invited an underling to her home, said underling made arrangements. Patrick was also here tonight, as well as a few other friends of Miranda's from various fashion houses in town, but there was a conspicuously empty chair near the head of the table.
Andy was away covering a story, and to Miranda's great irritation, she was late returning home. Something about the plane, or security, or whatever. She didn't go into details, and of course, Nigel didn't ask. Sitting at her right and across from where Andy would have been, Nigel sensed her anger. Her glasses were coming on and off, on and off, and occasionally, she chewed on them. That meant things were going to be very, very bad when Andy got home. He'd seen it before. It was as terrible as a set of unhappily pursed lips. Poor girl.
This was the first time he'd been to Miranda's home since the big reveal. It had been a few weeks, and even now, he was still not used to the idea of the two of them being together.
It just didn't jive. Andy told tales occasionally of Miranda's sweetness, of a romantic streak that according to her ran a mile wide. Nigel could not for the life of him see it. He could grasp the idea of Miranda giving excellent gifts; he'd received a number of them himself over the years. He could also see her planning events around significant dates. She did that on a regular basis for the magazine anyway. Well, not really plan, but delegate. But he couldn't really imagine Miranda being as thoughtful as Andy professed her to be. Jane was most assuredly stepping in as a second pair of hands in that regard.
And he didn't blame Miranda. Her life was filled to the brim between work, and the children, and now Andy. If her assistants helped out with personal errands as well as professional, she was no different than any other businesswoman in New York. She needed help, and Jane kept up admirably. The girl had a bright future in front of her if she could stick it out for another year or so.
But he searched Miranda's face on a frequent basis for the softness that Andy gushed over so freely. He shook his head, and wondered if he was really that stupid, or if Andy was totally misguided.
He also had a hard time imagining the two of them together. He had a healthy fantasy life, and obviously did not choose to spend much of his time picturing his former boss in flagrante with a woman half her age. But he'd never seen more than a simple kiss on the cheek, or a half embrace. Miranda did not like to be touched. God knew she barely tolerated his presence in an elevator when he slipped in beside her. They air-kissed, and occasionally hugged, and she always pulled away first.
But Nigel knew that the two of them had sex, however weird it must have been. Recently when he met Andy for dinner, she had a funny look about her, one he couldn't put his finger on. He joked that she must have just gotten lucky, and she'd blushed. He'd nearly swallowed his tongue.
"It's not even seven thirty. I thought you just came from work." He gasped. "Are you running around on Miranda?"
Andy laughed heartily at that. "No, I uh, stopped by to see her."
And then she blushed harder.
Nigel had been awestruck. "Did you have sex with Miranda at Elias-Clarke?"
"Shh, Nigel, keep your voice down. She'd kill me if that got out."
"Oh my god, you did." He stared at her. "Where?"
Andy looked as though she was about to burst. "I can't tell you."
"Oh no, you are going to tell me, or I am going to start talking really loudly about it--" His voice rose gradually as he spoke.
"Quiet!" she'd demanded. "Okay, fine. Her private bathroom."
Nigel narrowed his eyes. "You're lying. That's too easy."
Andy furrowed her brow. "Geez," she said. After an eye roll, she finally confessed. "The Closet, okay?"
"The Closet? But it's so early--there had to have been people still around!"
Andy just licked her lips, a cat who had clearly eaten and enjoyed a canary. "You can never, ever tell. Seriously, Nigel. Don't make me regret this."
Swallowing his shock, he nodded his head. "My lips are sealed."
And they'd stayed sealed. He actually wanted to know more about that little escapade, but then again, maybe he didn't. He was glad he didn't work at Runway anymore. He didn't want to walk through the Closet and start wondering where exactly they'd done the deed.
So, sex was being had. And from the satisfied look on Andy's face that day, it was good.
But it was still weird.
Miranda tapped her spoon at the bottom of her soup bowl and looked around the room distantly. Finally she turned to Nigel and asked for an update on the menswear collection.
"Oh, it's going great. We're more than halfway there, I think. James here," he placed a hand on James's shoulder, "feels pretty confident."
"Yeah, when I don't question my sanity for trying to do both women's and men's in the same year."
"Have you expanded your staff--" Miranda paused mid-sentence, tilting her head. Her mouth remained open, but something in her face changed. She inhaled, and dropped her soup spoon in the bowl.
"Miranda?" James asked. "Are you--"
The door to the dining room soared open, banging against the wall, and every head in the room whipped toward the sound. A beaming Andy stood there, not quite dressed for a dinner party, but beautiful nonetheless. She wore a dark tank top and oversized cargo pants, her backpack still slung over one shoulder. "Hey, everybody. Sorry to interrupt." She dropped the bag outside the door and practically hopped around the chairs to get to Miranda. Nigel watched her lean down to deliver a quick kiss to Miranda's cheek, and she whispered something unintelligible in her ear. Miranda's nod was tiny, but he caught it. "I'm going to go change," Andy said. "Be right back."
She breezed out of the room, and Miranda turned back to James. "Have you expanded your staff to accommodate the greater demands?" she said, as though nothing had happened.
"Um, yes, we have," James began, and the conversation around the table resumed. But Nigel wasn't listening. He was more interested in Miranda, whose anxiousness had vanished. The line between her eyebrows did not disappear, but it was not nearly as deep.
Huh. Maybe she hadn't been angry at all. Maybe she'd been worried. That made sense.
As the salad was served, Andy returned, freshly showered and smelling divine. She wore a lovely new Chanel mini that suited her perfectly. Miranda seemed to approve as well, since she smiled very slightly. Andy took her seat and dove into her salad with gusto, and Miranda's smile grew until she caught Nigel watching her. "What?"
"Just curious about the preparations for Paris," Nigel said quickly. "How things are going so far. Is Jane surviving?"
"Yes, Jane is fine. And after a few false starts, she seems to have found a suitable replacement for Emily. But her name escapes me."
"Ha ha," Andy said. "It's Amanda. She's awesome. Went to FIT, with a double major in fashion merchandising and marketing. The two of them will be running the whole magazine in no time."
"We'll see," Miranda countered.
"Please. I think Amanda might have an eidetic memory. She is amazing with phone numbers."
Miranda sniffed. "Unlike you."
"I know. It took me a month to learn any of them. I really was terrible for a while." Andy took a sip of her wine, and sighed. "God, that's good. The flight was a nightmare."
"What happened?" Nigel asked.
"Well, we left three hours late because of 'weather,' but no one could identify where the bad weather actually was, and no one from the airline explained anything. And then we had turbulence for like, the entire flight, literally until we landed. Not fun." She took another sip. "Then I waited more than an hour for my luggage, which was torn in two places."
"Not the Vuitton?" Miranda looked scandalized.
"No way. LL Bean. Expendable."
"I'll call the airline tomorrow and speak to someone."
"Nah, it wasn't a big deal. Sorry I was late though. I asked Carina to keep some of the soup for me. It looked delicious."
Nigel was curious. "What were you covering?"
"The congressional hearings. Thank god I had my laptop at the airport--I was able to file from the lounge so I can actually go to bed tonight at a reasonable hour. And Mark's covering the homepage for me till Tuesday, so I don't have to work Sunday for a change. I owe him big time."
"Then you're free tomorrow?" Miranda asked lightly.
"I'm taking the girls to the Guggenheim for a school project. Will you come?"
"Wouldn't miss it," Andy grinned. "I stopped in to say hi, but they were involved in an intense session of Guitar Hero. Figured we could visit later."
Nigel chuckled. "I might have to join them. I've always wanted to try it."
"Oh, it's great. You'd love it."
The rest of the dinner passed without incident. The five courses were delicious, and the company enjoyable, but Miranda still seemed a little off. On edge. Perhaps she was still irritated with Andy, despite the fact that it wasn't her fault. Miranda never had much patience for anyone, and Andy was apparently no exception.
He felt a little sad about that. But Andy made her bed. Nigel was just glad he didn't have to lie in it.
Dessert was served, and Nigel's eyes widened when it landed in front of him. He looked up. Andy's smile was enormous. But before she dug in, she looked up at Miranda, who met her gaze. "Wow," she exclaimed.
Nigel peeked around the table, and laughed just a little before biting it back. The horror on the women's faces was immediately apparent, and the men just looked stunned.
A slice of chocolate cake was the base, and three perfect scoops of vanilla ice cream sat peacefully atop it. A banana halved long ways hugged the ice cream from behind, and there were rivers of chocolate and caramel sauce drizzled over the entire thing. A server appeared behind Nigel. "Fresh cream?" he asked. Nigel blinked.
A dollop of cream was placed on his plate, and he watched as it slowly oozed down the concoction. It was a work of art.
"Absolutely," he heard Andy say across the table, and she hummed as the cream slid down the cake. Immediately she scooped up a bite, and Nigel started when he heard her groan of bliss at first taste. "Oh, Miranda, this is unreal."
Miranda didn't reply. To Nigel's amazement, this was the result of her actually taking a bite of the concoction. He hadn't seen her eat dessert for fifteen years. What the hell?
As soon as Miranda indulged, the rest of them felt obliged, and Nigel quite enjoyed the look of delight on Jocelyn's face. He wondered when she'd last had ice cream. Probably third grade. He took a bite. "Wow," he mumbled, mouth full. It truly was unreal.
No one finished their portions except Andy, who when through, sat back in her chair serenely. "Wonderful. Totally cancels out the miserable trip."
"How long were you gone?" Nigel asked.
"Six days. Felt like forever."
"How was it?"
"Good. I think. Dixon was pretty happy with everything, but I don't want to make it a habit."
"Traveling for work. I thought I would be great at it. I used to be able to live out of a suitcase, but I think I'm too old these days."
At that, Nigel chortled. "Old? Very cute, kiddo."
Andy rolled her eyes. "Okay, so old might not be the best word. Anyway, I didn't love it."
Andy turned to Miranda. "Did Cassidy's science test go okay?"
Miranda nodded. "She says she did well. She'll find out tomorrow."
"She'd better have, considering."
Nigel frowned. "What, did you observe from afar?"
"Nah. But we had a few conference calls while I was away."
"You playing tutor?" he joked.
"No. Just helping. The girls do their own work these days."
He glanced at Miranda. "That's great."
James nudged him then, drawing his attention to something Jocelyn's husband was saying about a Tony-nominated show they'd just seen. Nigel was curious enough about it to leave Miranda and Andy to themselves.
When dinner was through, the group stood to reconvene in the large parlour off the dining room. It was a pleasant gathering, but he didn't plan on staying much longer. Andy disappeared to see the girls before they went to bed, and Miranda said she'd return shortly. Something about the Book that had to be taken care of immediately, she said. Typical.
Nigel took advantage of the respite to make his way downstairs to the back garden. He had a cigar in his pocket, and this was the perfect time to enjoy such a rare indulgence. Years ago he spent a little time in the small outdoor space, when Miranda had thrown a dinner party not unlike this one. Except Stephen had been in the picture back then, and the whole night, he'd felt nervous. Frightened, even. The tension had been thick, but Miranda had smiled pleasantly, as had Stephen. That's what freaked him out. They were bizarrely nice.
Tonight, Miranda might have been quiet, and a little irritable, but at least she was herself.
When he stepped through the French doors, he gaped. The place had totally changed. Gone were the minimalist pebbles and rocks that had been the central theme. Now the scent of jasmine filled the air, and a small tree was in purple, brilliant bloom a few feet away. There was also some sort of cherry tree just coming into its own. Trees and ferns lined the bamboo-covered walls, and he was sure he heard the sound of running water. He stepped further into the dim space, and found its source. A fountain gurgled pleasantly near a table with four chairs around it. Huh. They must have had someone in to redesign, Nigel thought.
As he was about to strike a match, a light went on inside. Miranda was in the study; he guessed she was going to handle whatever it was that happened with the Book. But curiously, she did not sit down at the desk, or do anything, really. She paced for a few moments, impatient as ever. She crossed her arms and frowned. What was she up to?
He did not have to wait long to find out. Andy slipped in through the door, and wearing a blinding grin, she flew directly into Miranda's open arms.
You could have knocked Nigel over with a feather.
They clung to each other, and only then did Nigel realize that two of the windows were open out onto the garden. Thank god he hadn't lit the cigar. He might have been murdered otherwise.
Nigel knew he should go back inside. He was intruding on the privacy of two friends. At best, it was rude and voyeuristic.
He did not go inside. Instead, he moved closer, staying out of the light.
"God, I missed you so much," Andy groaned. Her hands moved along Miranda's back, then burrowed into silver hair as she nuzzled Miranda's neck.
He waited for Miranda's reply, but she instead turned Andy's head and found her mouth, kissing her. Passionately. Nigel rocked back on his heels. They moved as one, bodies crushed together, and Nigel saw a flash of tongue pass between them. He couldn't tell which one was making that low, purring sound, but he wished they'd stop; it was causing a tendril of arousal to course through his belly. He was drawn to the image, realizing an unspoken desire to see this hidden part of Miranda. The part he didn't believe existed.
When they separated, Nigel was almost relieved. That, however, was short lived, since Andy proceeded to push Miranda against the desk, leaning her back for another round. He realized then who was making that sound, and it wasn't Andy. He swallowed as Andy settled in between Miranda's thighs. When one elegant leg twined around Andy's body, a lace band at the top of Miranda's stocking came into view, but then Miranda's blouse fluttered open, just like that. Andy had fast hands; he hadn't even noticed her working on the buttons. Jesus. So much for not spotting the chemistry between them before now.
One of Andy's quick hands vanished, and Miranda threw her head back with a gasp. "Oh god," Miranda gasped. "God, Andrea, we don't have time--"
"Yes we do," Andy breathed.
"They'll all know--"
"Who cares? I sure as hell don't." She did something then that made Miranda arch even further back, and Nigel shifted his stance, adjusting his suddenly snug pants. This was not good. But he was gripped by the sheer abandon on Miranda's face. Andy was in complete control. They were both beautiful. And it was very, very hot to watch Miranda Priestly writhe in the throes of passion. "You've been thinking about me, haven't you," Andy growled. "I can tell."
Miranda bucked against her. "Yes."
"You're already close."
"Mm-hmm," Miranda hummed, panting through her nose.
"Come on then."
"Ah, almost," Miranda whispered. "Please, please, oh, please."
"God, I can't wait to taste you tonight," Andy said, and Miranda bit down hard on her lip and whined. "I am going to eat you alive--"
And Miranda came, her whole body convulsing at once, an expression of pure ecstasy on her face. And the sound she made Nigel took an unsteady, silent breath.
Miranda sagged back on her elbows, exhaling mightily. Andy nuzzled her hairline, rubbing her face against her pale skin. She kissed a spot near Miranda's ear before pulling back to meet Miranda's gaze.
"Hi," Andy said.
"Hi," Miranda replied softly, and smiled.
Nigel's heart dropped into his stomach. He'd never in his life seen that look on Miranda's face. God, she was beautiful. She might as well have been a different person.
"Welcome home," Miranda added. "I missed you too."
"I can tell," Andy teased. "Sorry I was late."
"I was worried."
"I know. I told the pilot that you might get him fired if we didn't leave on time, but it didn't make any difference," Andy said. Nigel assumed she was joking, but with Miranda, you never knew.
"It's all right. You're here now. And we should get back to everyone, since this went a little longer than I expected, for which I blame you entirely--"
"I know, and there's just one thing I wanted to tell you, since I had kind of a realization while I was gone." Andy started buttoning up Miranda's blouse after wiping her hands off with a tissue from the desk.
Nigel waited, wondering what sort of punishment he'd eventually have to suffer for overhearing this conversation. And seeing what he'd just seen.
"I changed my mind about Paris. I want to come with you after all."
Miranda took a breath, mouth open in surprise. "Oh."
"If you still want me to."
"Of course I do," Miranda said. "Of course. Yes."
"And you can think it over, but I thought the girls might come with us. You could, you know, work, and see the shows, and hobnob, and during the day the girls and I could go around the city and check out what I missed the first time. They probably know Paris better than I do anyway, and we could be tourists, and then meet up with you later, after the parties. And then maybe take a day or two extra, after Fashion Week, to just hang out. Or whatever." Andy swallowed. "What do you think?"
Miranda swept a strand of hair away from Andy's forehead. "What brought this on?"
Andy shrugged. "I don't know. I just " She chewed on her lip for a moment. "I didn't like being gone for so long. I missed you, and the girls, and I thought about how it would be with you so far away for a whole week, and I changed my mind. That's all."
"We'll stay an extra seven days at the very least," Miranda said, as if the whole thing had been decided. "Some time in Nice would be lovely, and we could finish in Provence. There's a little winery I'd love to show you."
Christ, Nigel thought. Andy wasn't kidding about the romantic thing.
"Sure. I'll talk to Dixon tomorrow. I think I've earned some comp time over the last two weeks."
"He's an intelligent man. I'm sure he'll accommodate the request."
"I can always write an article or two while I'm there."
"Or you could take an actual vacation like the rest of the world does," Miranda complained.
"Oh, you mean like you do?" Andy countered.
"I will. This year I have reason to." Miranda's hand crept low, hitching up the back of Andy's already short dress. He saw a flash of red lace panties, and shook his head with a lecherous grin. Just when he'd relaxed enough to show himself in public
"Mm, I want to wait," Andy said, shaking off Miranda's touch. "I like it when you owe me one."
"Well then," Miranda said. "I'd better give you something to think about until our guests take their leave." They kissed once more, slowly, as if they had all the time in the world.
Nigel took his cue. They were distracted enough that even if he made a ruckus getting back in the house, they probably wouldn't notice. But he opened the French doors silently, and slipped upstairs. No one questioned his absence except James, and Nigel lied that he returned a call from his brother in Los Angeles. James accepted his explanation easily, and Nigel sat a little closer to him than he would have before. "Having fun?" he asked.
"Yeah. Miranda seemed a little weird though. Am I crazy?"
"No. But you know how she is," Nigel said. It's what everyone always said about Miranda.
Nigel caught up with Patrick for a little while, until Andy returned solo, looking chipper and unflustered. Nigel was impressed. She sat with Jocelyn, and Nigel heard her ask after Emily.
Miranda joined them not long after that. She was more talkative than before, and she actually laughed a little when he made a joke. He watched Andy when that happened, struck at how visibly enamored she was. She did not even attempt to mask her affection. Guileless, Nigel thought.
The party started to break up when Jocelyn got antsy over going home to the baby, and Miranda nodded in understanding. Nigel was the last out of the parlour, but he paused at a set of photos hanging in the hallway. It was a triptych of images of Miranda and Andy in close up.
"They're pretty, aren't they," Andy said behind him.
"You can say that again." He leaned in for a better look. "Who took them?"
"Yeah. He's really sweet. He was great with Miranda."
Nigel shook his head in disbelief for what felt like the twentieth time that night. "You are something else," he said.
"Yeah." The central image was peaceful, with Miranda smiling at Andy, whose eyes were blissfully closed. The one to the left revealed Miranda gazing away with a grin as Andy tipped her head back in laughter, and the one on the right was of the two of them looking directly at the camera as if in challenge. Don't even try to keep us apart, it said to him. Nigel reached out and touched the glass with the tip of his fingernail, tracing Miranda's determined expression. "I think I get it now."
"Get what?" Andy asked, leaning against his shoulder.
He looked down at her. "You two."
Her eyes were bright. "I love her."
"I know." And she loves you. Wonders would never cease.
He made it to the front door before James had to hunt him down. Quickly he kissed Miranda's cheek in farewell, and for a moment, he flashed back to Andy kissing the same spot. A wash of heat crept up his neck, and he stepped away. "Thanks for a lovely evening," he said before hugging Andy. He whispered in her ear, "Have fun tonight."
She giggled. It wasn't a suspicious remark; after all, she had been gone a week. He didn't have to spy on them to know what they were about to get up to. She goosed him, and James grabbed his arm to get them out the door before they started out and out teasing. "Good night all," he waved, and then they were outside, the door shut firmly behind them.
"So, that was fun," James said, inhaling the cool night air.
Spring was here, and the city seemed sweeter than ever to Nigel at that moment. "It was. Nice to see them so happy."
"You think so? It's hard to tell. Miranda seems so cool, so removed. I don't know what Andy sees in her sometimes."
"I think a lot goes on behind closed doors," Nigel said, and left it at that. He slipped his hand under James' arm and led him out onto the sidewalk. "Now come on. I want to get home."
"What's the rush?"
He met James' eyes. "What do you think?"
James quirked an eyebrow. He lifted an arm and waved to an oncoming cab. "Taxi!"
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